This week’s announcement of the expansion of the B.C. missing women inquiry didn’t resonate with one of the victims’ most outspoken advocates.
The commission, headed by Wally Oppal, was originally intended to conduct a formal hearing into the police handling of the disappearances and murders of the women plucked from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside by serial killer Robert Pickton. That hearing will unfold much like a criminal trial, and could result in findings of wrongdoing.
Oppal, however, asked that his mandate be expanded to include a more informal study portion that would visit this region to hear from those connected to the 18 women who have gone missing along the so-called Highway of Tears, and possibly make policy recommendations based on those submissions.
But Gladys Radek, whose niece, Tamara Chipman, is one of the Highway of Tears victims, said a study is simply not enough.
She said a formal inquiry is justified for the Highway of Tears just as it is for the Downtown Eastside in order to examine the police investigations conducted here in the north.
“I haven’t seen any resolve or cases solved since Tamara’s gone missing. I haven’t seen any answers. And that’s since 2005, and there hasn’t been any movement on any of those 18 victims,” said Radek.
“The underlying message here is: maybe we’re dealing with another serial killer. But in that respect, I think that until you can prove to me there’s only one man that killed all those women up there, there is (actually) 18 killers out there.”
Radek is one of the founders of Walk4Justice, an advocacy group dedicated to raising the profile of missing women cases across Canada. She said her group hired a lawyer to speak on its behalf at the Oppal inquiry in Vancouver, but is worried now that doing so will effectively muzzle the group in public.
Inquiry spokesman Chris Freidmond said the study portion has seven days tentatively scheduled for northern B.C. in the middle of June.
“It will be places like Prince Rupert, Vanderhoof, Terrace, Smithers, those types of communities,” said Freimond, adding he was uncertain if Prince George would make the cut.
The schedule was expected to be finalized after press deadline.